Fireworks in Milan for new year, a lazy morning, farewells and then an afternoon flight South to Rome. Night was falling as we pulled into Termini and trundled our suitcases down the Via Cavour to our budget hotel.
The night was clear, so, after dinner, we went for a walk heading down to the ancient centre and stood overlooking the deserted forum, imagining the bustling industry of Imperial days. We climbed the steep Capitol steps past the statute of Romulus and Remus into Michelangelo's elegant Piazza del Campidoglio where Marcus Aurelius points out over the tightly knitted streets around the the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona.
Cribs are everywhere in Rome. Created with pride, maintained by families and communities over generations. Each layered and flavoured with local jokes, colour and character. The one in the Piazza was particularly impressive. The Lazio shepherds and fishermen preparing a simple feast of sage infused Saltimbocca and filetti di Baccala. The stable itself was hidden in the midst of a Roman ghetto. Oblivious of cataclysmic event, life carries on within the narrow streets. A flaneur's dream, a maze, as if a simple turn at an unknown corner might bring you face to face with the nativity.
We headed down towards the Campo de Fiori stopping for a stoop of red wine in the eccentric Bartaruga on Piazza Mattei, overlooking Bernini's playful Fontana delle Tartarughe. This is my favourite part of the city. Intimate, flourishing, lively and accessible. There are easy smiles and a lingering sense of festive spirit. We headed onwards through the Campo and onto Piazza Navona, where a huge Christmas fair was in huge spring. Hear professional crib constructors can purchase anything they like from Holy family, to sheep, camels, elephant as well as a range of different mosses and lichen with which to roof your stable.
And so we slowly headed back to base, past the Trevi Fountain up along the Viale delle Quarttro Fontane, down the other side and home to bed.